Sunday, April 27, 2014

Reading: Quest for the Tree Kangaroo: An Expedition to the Cloud Forest of New Guinea

Courtesy of betterworldbooks.com
Named a Siebert Honor Book, Quest for the Tree Kangaroo: An Expedition to the Cloud Forest of New Guinea, was written by Sy Montgomery and includes beautiful photographs by Nic Bishop.  Including maps of New Guinea and discussions with actual scientists working in the field, Quest for the Tree Kangaroo shows children what a day in the life of a researcher is like, as the scientists in this book try to understand one of the "rarest, strangest, and least understood creatures on the planet."  (Have you ever heard of a tree kangaroo?  I hadn't!)  

As more and more trees in the Cloud Forest of New Guinea are destroyed, so too are the homes for many trees kangaroos.  Because there is little known about these rare creatures, and because they are becoming rarer with the demolition of their habitat, researchers went on a journey to learn more about them.  This journey is outlined in Quest, an excellent book for use alongside a unit about conservation.  

One of my favorite elements from this informational book is the photographs revealing many creatures that I have never seen or heard of before, including the blue-headed cassowary bird and, of course, the adorable tree kangaroo which "looks like a stuffed animal, or like something that Dr. Seuss might have dreamed up.  Impossibly soft with a rounded fact, button eyes, pink nose, pert upright ears, and a long, thick tail, it's about the size of a  small dog or an overweight cat with plush brown and golden fur."  Isn't that such an amazing description?  I wouldn't normally expect to find something so poetic in an informational book, but I did, and it allowed me to visualize the tree kangaroo before even observing the photos of it! 

And that is how Quest reads, like a book of poetry complete with photos of the researchers, the animals they see, the landscape of New Guinea, the village homes and people of New Guinea (including school-children attending classes), and the journey through the Cloud Forest.  Obviously, Quest is about more than the tree kangaroo.  It introduces children to a land they are probably unfamiliar with, to people that live in a place unlike their own homes but still do the same things!  It emphasizes the importance of conservation, while showing a real scientific journey that just might inspire some young readers to study science and grow into researchers that can continue to work for conservation like the researchers they read about in Quest. It even includes the translation for common words in New Guinea.  Other text features include an index, maps, photos, and captions.  

I found Quest for the Tree Kangaroo to be an engaging read for myself, as it introduced me to a topic that I knew little about.  Children will be more interested in the pictures, especially since the text is rather small, but I would encourage mine to read the captions and to read each page if the captions pique their interest.  To check out this informational book for yourself, visit your local library.  You can also learn more about conservation efforts for the tree kangaroo by visiting treekangaroo.org 

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